Editorial | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario)
11/29/2008 -- Signs that the state budget cuts are reaching bone - not just fat - became painfully evident when the CSU trustees opted to accept 10,000 fewer students next fall in response to Sacramento cutbacks.
The move to lower admissions - the first ever for the CSUs - comes during a time most economists consider a recession and when people are flocking toward higher education. New figures show applications to the Cal State University system are up 21 percent over last year.
When more students are looking to apply themselves at a four-year university, their leaders are pulling out the rug from under them. With a proposed $66.3 million midyear cut to funding for the CSUs, the trustees were forced to take this unprecedented step. Cutting back college admissions sends the wrong message to hard-working high school students readying college applications to meet the now rigid Nov. 30 deadline. It also tarnishes the state's image of offering higher education to all students willing to meet admission requirements.
While we would agree that the CSUs must take their lumps in difficult times, state leaders are hitting the colleges and universities harder than other areas. The CSUs just finished cutting $31.3 million this past summer. Also, tuition has risen in six of the last seven years. It costs about $3,800 in tuition and books each year to attend a Cal State Los Angeles or a Cal State Fullerton, for example. Multiply that by four years and the a CSU undergraduate degree costs approximately $16,000 (not including room and board).
We're glad the CSU board took this action rather than the alternative, to cut classes and eliminate part-time instructors. But we fear both may end up happening - leaving students and middle class families to survive without a lifeboat in this perfect storm.
While some may say, just send those future students to community college instead where they can then transfer to a four-year university, this is becoming increasingly difficult. These workhorses of post-secondary education are also being hit hard by the state's inability to balance its budget and control spending. Community colleges may lose up to 260,000 students due to forced budget cutbacks, the Sacramento Bee recently reported. Meanwhile, laid-off workers need the retraining that community colleges offer.
The University of California also is not immune. The governor is asking for a $65.5 million midyear cut.
While the CSUs, UCs and the community colleges will survive, there will be a ripple effect that will hurt California's economy and its ability to bounce back from recession. These institutions are job engines and any slowdown in admissions and graduates means fewer trained applicants released to the job market. That will translate into a slower economic recovery.
So, while cutting universities and slamming the doors on future students satisfies a prescribed cutback, its hidden effects could be long-lasting and as a budget cure, worse than the disease.